Anxiogenic-like effects of chronic nicotine exposure in zebrafish

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Nicotine is one of the most widely used and abused legal drugs. Although its pharmacological profile has been extensively investigated in humans and rodents, nicotine CNS action remains poorly understood. The importance of finding evolutionarily conserved signaling pathways, and the need to apply high-throughput in vivo screens for CNS drug discovery, necessitate novel efficient experimental models for nicotine research. Zebrafish (Danio rerio) are rapidly emerging as an excellent organism for studying drug abuse, neuropharmacology and toxicology and have recently been applied to testing nicotine. Anxiolytic, rewarding and memory-modulating effects of acute nicotine treatment in zebrafish are consistently reported in the literature. However, while nicotine abuse is more relevant to long-term exposure models, little is known about chronic effects of nicotine on zebrafish behavior. In the present study, chronic 4-day exposure to 1–2 mg/L nicotine mildly increased adult zebrafish shoaling but did not alter baseline cortisol levels. We also found that chronic exposure to nicotine evokes robust anxiogenic behavioral responses in zebrafish tested in the novel tank test paradigm. Generally paralleling clinical and rodent data on anxiogenic effects of chronic nicotine, our study supports the developing utility of zebrafish for nicotine research.

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